Friday, June 6, 2014

An Incredible Educational Experience in the Mountains of Mexico

Let there be among you just one heart and one mind. 
Let it always be said of the Little Brothers of Mary 
as it was of the early Christians: See how they love one another!
                                                                                  -       Marcellin Champagnat
What does one do in the following situation? Most villages in this mountainous region of the state of Guerrero have a primary school, and some have a secondary school. But most do not have a high school. And the high schools that do exist demand, in order to be accepted as a student there, excellence in Spanish, Mexico’s official language.
Students and teachers from the Champagnat High School of La Montaña (2014)
However, even though the primary and secondary education in the villages is supposed to be bilingual, many teachers find it easier to teach the children in their native language (be that nahuatl, me’phaa, or na’savi). So the students who manage to finish secondary school and wish to continue their education often can’t do so because of their deficiencies in Spanish, or because the families just don’t have the economic resources to send their child away to be educated.
Classrooms of the Champagnat High School of La Montaña
Enter the Champagnat High School of La Montaña. The school provides extra training in Spanish for its students. And the school fees are based on the possibilities of the family; fees can range from nothing to bags of corn to a chicken every month to a monetary payment each semester.
A memorial service for Father Manuel, one of the most beloved
directors of the high school; he died of cancer in August 2013.
Today (June 6) is the feast day of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, the French priest who founded the Marist Brothers in 1817. The Marist Bothers in Mexico, with assistance since 2004 from Mission Mexico, built and now operate a high school in Potoichan for poor youth from all over La Montaña.
A typical classroom at the Champagnat High School
I have visited “development projects” in a dozen countries of Latin America as well as in Europe and Africa, and I can honestly say that this high school—the Champagnat High School of La Montaña—is the most amazing and wonderful endeavor that I have seen.
Lunch time at the high school
Right now there are 260 students attending the high school. Of these, 120 are boarding at the school: 60 girls and 60 boys. The other 140 students are either from Potoichan or surrounding villages or they live with families in Potoichan and surrounding villages.
Part of the dormitory for the young women boarding at the school
The students receive a high quality education during the week. On Saturday, all of the students have a service project; it’s a way of “paying forward” the “blessing” that they are receiving by being allowed to continue their education. These service projects involve all kinds of activities in Potoichan and other villages: literacy; health; catechetics; sewing classes; embroidery classes; remedial education work with children; help in the fields; etc.
A student giving a box of food to a woman whose husband died that week
Of course, the dream of almost all of the students is to be able to continue studying beyond high school, but in many cases, that will remain just a dream. The Marist Brothers and Mission Mexico have teamed up to offer some bursaries for further education in the Marist university in Mexico City, but there just aren’t funds available to help everyone. However, the three years of experiences in this incredible school will “mark” the lives of these young people forever.   
Students re-enacting the Way of the Cross
Congratulations today to all of the Marist brothers who participate in this educational project, especially to Brother Salvador Cardona, director of the high school. And thanks to all the supporters of Mission Mexico who give hope to these young people of this impoverished region of Mexico. Please continue your support.
A list of the requirements to live at the high school.
Is your Spanish good enough to note the following requirements?:
speak an indigenous language (well); be of few economic resources (be poor);
not have a high school nearby or in your village of origin; come from isolated
villages, preferably from the area of La Montaña of Guerrero; enjoy manual work
(working in the fields); willingness to relate to all others as equals; willingness
to allow yourself to be guided o accompanied; willingness to fulfill the rules.

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